Monday, February 27th, 2017

I ate a whole package of Oreos once, just to see if I could. Which was silly. Of course I could. Anybody could. The question is, should you? And the answer is, not unless you like feeling sick as a dog for the rest of the day.

I don’t, but it’s not like that’s the only time I’ve done something like that, sad to say. Do you remember those malted milk balls that came in a quart-sized milk carton? I don’t remember how much that thing weight, but I ate a whole carton of those once. I think that was before the Oreos incident. I ate the Oreos when I was on my first tour of duty in the Air Force. The malted milk balls were much earlier, probably when I was still in high school. I ate a lot of junk in high school. Everybody did, right?

And once I drank a six-pack of Mountain Dew in one afternoon, again just for the experience. I lived in a very small town. There wasn’t a lot to do. I remember finishing that first can and thinking, “Hey, I could go for another one.” And when I finished the second can I thought, “I could have one more.” After the third can, I couldn’t tell you what I was thinking, other than maybe, “I feel stupid enough to drink the rest.” I can tell you that the buzz I got from drinking six cans of Mountain Dew is not something I ever want to experience again.

The stomach ache, though, apparently was something I wanted to experience over and over, because the malted milk balls and the Oreos came after. I haven’t repeated either of those experiences, but I was thinking about this today because I recently discovered that a nearby grocery store sells dark chocolate malted milk balls in the bulk aisle, and they are sooo good! I have to be careful to buy only a small handful at a time, because once I start eating them, I don’t stop until my stomach hurts, which is probably not the most healthy thing for me, or anybody else, for that matter.

insanity | 7:21 pm CDT
Category: food & drink, random idiocy, story time
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Sunday, December 21st, 2014

Hello, boys and girls! Welcome! Welcome to Story Time with Unkle Knuckles. Gather round and I’ll tell you the story of how Silly Putty came to be banned from our Christmas stockings. Ready? Let’s begin.

This would’ve been so many years ago that Sean was still a toddler and Tim was no more than a notion. Back then, my Mom and Dad lived in the O-Folk Ancestral Manse, far, far away in The Frozen North. In the year which our story takes place, we made the long voyage there to spend Christmas day with them.

In Sean’s stocking, he found one of the classic toys: A plastic egg with a blob of Silly Putty inside. It was the first Silly Putty he’d ever played with, so we showed him all the nifty stuff he could do with it: Bounce it like a ball, break it like a piece of china, and copy a panel of Calvin & Hobbes off the funny pages. That last one was the corker: He was having such a good time that we left him to play and didn’t give the Silly Putty another thought.

Long after we had opened all our gifts and the morning had lapsed into the time of day when we were all blobbing out on a sofa or were slouched in an overstuffed chair, my Dad decided he had to get another cookie or a drink from the kitchen. When he tried to rise from his chair, he discovered that the chair wouldn’t let him go! He sank back into the chair, then tried to get up again. The chair seemed to be following him! He tried once more and finally bulled his way into an upright position.

Good thing the chair he’d been sitting in was one with a removable seat cushion, because the cushion was well and truly glued to his butt. The glue? Silly Putty, of course. As we all learned that day, if you sit on a blob of Silly Putty, your body heat makes it spread itself evenly across your whole butt, and if you’re wearing pants, it works itself so deeply into the fabric that it’s never going to come out. Same with the fabric of a chair cushion, if you happen to be sitting on one. The only way Dad could get away from that chair cushion was to take his pants off.

And that’s why Silly Putty was never seen again in the stockings of the littlest O-Folk.

silly | 5:56 pm CDT
Category: Dad, O'Folks, Seanster, story time
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Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Pete OkonskiMy family lived in Green Bay until about 1967 in a little two-bedroom rental at 819 South Roosevelt Street. (Happily, the house is still there.) How I still recall that useless piece of trivia is one of those mysteries of memory that no one will ever explain to me so that it makes sense.

Although it’s not so hard when there are plenty of photos like this one in our photo album. This is my brother Pete. He can’t be more than three years old in this photo, but that little guy had some legs on him. We grew up in that legendary time when parents sent their kids outside to play all day long without worrying about whether or not they’d be snatched off the street by a deviant or a cannibal or a human trafficker. I used to run up and down and all around the block for hours without raising an eyebrow, as long as I ran straight home when I heard my mom calling. If I couldn’t hear my mom calling because I was too far away, or in someone else’s house, one of the other kids would and the word would quickly be relayed to me. That’s how it worked.

Pete was a special kind of wanderer, though. Mom would send him out in the yard to play and five minutes later he was nowhere to be seen. An hour later he might be as far away as Saint Paul, Minnesota. The kid could move fast, and he stayed gone long after word was out on the street that his mother was calling him. Even back then, that worried my mom. After the second or third time she had to mount a search party to find the little booger, she started labelling him to make him easier to find.

They used to sell denim patches with a sticky backing that you could melt over the torn knees of kids’ jeans with an iron. Mom would cut them into quarters and write Pete’s name and address on them with an indelible marker, then iron them onto his jackets, his shirts, and his pants. She used to joke that she ironed them on his underwear just to make sure. I thought she used to write our phone number on them, too, but it’s clearly missing from the label in this photo.

the wanderer | 2:23 pm CDT
Category: O'Folks, Pete, story time
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Friday, August 8th, 2014

Mom & Pete on the toboggan runFor a couple years, my family lived in Marquette, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It snows there fourteen months out of the year, so everybody knew how to catch fish by cutting a hole in the ice, and every family owned at least one toboggan. I just love that word. I could say it all day. Toboggan toboggan toboggan. Toboggan. So much fun.

We had a toboggan. Here’s a photo of it. I believe that’s my brother Pete in front with a great big smile on his face and my mother in back, holding the wings of toboggan in her vise-like grip to keep Pete safely tucked under its curled-back staves.

If memory serves, the photo was taken somewhere near Ishpeming. I think it might have been on a hill where there were several ski jumps. This isn’t one of them. It’s even crazier than a ski jump. That track that the toboggan is running down is a sheet of ice polished smooth by the passage of hundreds of toboggans that went before. There are two wooden rails on either side, as you can see, to keep the toboggan going straight down the hill, and a good thing, too, because the toboggan and all its passengers are going about a hundred twenty miles per hour by the time they get halfway down.

The way this gizmo worked was, you took your toboggan into that little hut in the background and threw it onto a table between a couple of short fences, which you can just barely see outlined against the window in the back of the hut. Then you climbed aboard the toboggan, and once everyone had a death grip on it, a guy in the hut would lift up one end of the table, which tipped over like a teeter-totter until the low end clacked into the groove at the bottom of the open door. The short fences on the table kept your toboggan lined up perfectly with the icy track outside. As the table was now at a thirty-degree angle and there was nothing to hold the toboggan back, it and everyone on board went VOOM! out the door of the hut and screaming down the chute at terrifying speeds.

When you finally came to at stop, somewhere near Wausau, you picked up the toboggan and carried it in-line back to the top of the hill to do it again, cackling with glee.

toboggan | 8:37 pm CDT
Category: Mom, O'Folks, Pete, random idiocy, story time
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Friday, May 2nd, 2014

All I needed was eight bags of Fritos, the snack-size bags that you can grab off the shelf at the gas station. I thought I could get them at the local Copps store down the corner because it’s just down the road and, well, because it’s a grocery store. Seemed like a no-brainer. But no matter where I looked in the mile-long aisle of snack foods, all I could find were giant-sized bags with enough Fritos in them to feed an entire kindergarten class for a week. I must’ve gone up and down that aisle half a dozen times before I gave up, went to the gas station across the street, and … didn’t find any Fritos. Lots of snack chips, no Fritos. My shopping list was very specific. They had to be Fritos. At the next gas station there were only five bags of Fritos on the shelf. “I need three more of these,” I said to the gal at the checkout. “Any chance you have more in the back?” She went to look, came back empty-handed; no joy. I paid for the five bags and went on. Finally found all the Fritos I needed at the next gas station. and that’s how I spent my evening, grocery shopping at every gas station in Monona.

Fritos | 6:32 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, random idiocy, story time
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Sunday, April 20th, 2014

You know how people say there’s literally nothing you can’t get from the internet? I’m literally starting to believe it. My Darling B just bought a case of hummus chips on the internet last week.

Backtracking just a little bit: There’s this snack food called hummus chips that she simply adores, and when I say “adores,” I mean she scarfs them down with a passion you don’t normally see except in teenaged girls squealing with pleasure at the sight of their favorite celebrity boy on the cover of Teen Beat, assuming Teen Beat is still a thing and that you know what is. Put in a more universally understandable way way, all the Jane Austin fans who live or have ever lived don’t give their idol one-tenth of the kind of love that B holds in her heart for this particular snack food.

And hummus chips are just what you think they are: the brown goop derived from mixing chickpeas and olive oil, extruded at high pressure from the orifice of an assembly-line machine into vats of boiling canola oil, scooped out, bagged up and sold as health food because, hey, hummus! Can’t be bad, can it?

But that’s not why B buys it. She buys it because of that passion thing I mentioned. Trouble is, there’s exactly one store in town where she can find them on sale, and that place doesn’t always have them when we stop. (Sorry, the terms of our non-disclosure agreement forbid me from mentioning the name of the store, the street it’s on or even which city it’s in.)

When the chips are all sold out, this makes B very sad, except for the last time we visited the store and found nothing at all but a gap where the chips should have been. That time she decided to do something about it, but she didn’t ask to see the manager to ask him when they were expecting the next shipment and would he pretty please hold back a couple of bags for her and, just to make sure he did, batting her eyes at him to render him helpless to her feminine charms.

No, instead she logged in to Amazon dot come as soon as she got home, searched for hummus chips, found them and ordered a case. A case. And they were delivered to our doorstep within 48 hours. Twelve bags of hummus chips in a displace case inside an Amazon.com shipping box. This is a thing you can do now. Amazing.

cravings | 12:50 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, story time, this modern world
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Sunday, April 13th, 2014

We had a visit from the axe murderer the other night. We were both very sure he was there. He creeps into our house every so often with his double-bladed war axe that drips with the blood of his victims, at least one of which he killed just minutes before he broke into our little red house, and he tiptoes across the floor silent as a cat until he bumps into an end table, or knocks a book off a shelf, or steps on that creaky floorboard in front of the closet, waking us up. Then he melts into the shadows and waits for us to fall asleep again, because the axe murderer will kill you only if you fall asleep. If we lie awake and stare at the bedroom doorway, he won’t kill us. It’s a physical law, like gravity.

A couple books fell off the dresser in the guest room and landed face-down on the floor (I discovered the next morning), making a sound like a gunshot that woke me with a jump from deep within a dream. When I realized it was dark I was puzzled, because the first thought that went through my head was that My Darling B must have knocked over a book by her bedside. She’s got a couple dozen going at once, most standing on edge on the floor, and they make that noise when she reaches for them and knocks one or two over. But it was dark, as I said, and she was lying absolutely still beside me, holding her breath, because, you know, the monsters can’t see you if you hold your breath and don’t move. You’re invisible.

I broke the spell by blurting out, “What was that?”

“Did you hear it, too?” she asked.

“What?”

“That noise. I thought I dreamed it.”

“I thought you knocked over a book.”

“No, I was asleep.”

We laid there a minute or two longer. Neither one of us had mentioned the axe murderer, but we were both waiting for something like the bedroom door to swing shut, revealing his hiding spot and trapping us within what would be known afterwards as The Scene Of The Crime.

“I’m going to see what it was,” I said, and snapped on my bedside light.

I walked all through the house but couldn’t find anything that looked like it had fallen, so I went back to bed without an explanation. That’s bad. If I’d found a book on the floor, never mind how it got there, it would explain the noise. Not finding the book meant the axe murderer was still in the house.

“Find anything?” B asked hopefully.

“Nope, couldn’t find a thing,” I said as nonchalantly as I could. “I’m sure it was just a book falling. Couldn’t have been anything else.” 

But we both knew otherwise, because we both laid there wide-awake for at least an hour, waiting for the axe to fall. When it didn’t, I fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion. B did, too, and I expect she woke up suddenly just as I did when she knew she was asleep. But neither one of us was killed in our sleep, so that meant the axe murderer must have left. He does that, too: Tiptoes out of the house when we ruin his evil plan by waking up and talking out loud.

a visit from the axe murderer | 7:53 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, random idiocy, sleeplessness, story time
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Sunday, August 4th, 2013

We woke last night to the sound of screaming. The weather was so mild that we left all the windows open, so we could clearly hear what sounded like at least two people, maybe three or more screaming their heads off somewhere down the block. B said later she was scared it was some kind of domestic violence that had spilled over into the street. It sounded that crazy.

She jumped out of bed and went to the bathroom window to see if she could spot what was going on. As it turned out, she could. Three people, maybe old enough to be roaring drunk, maybe not, were stumbling down the middle of the street shouting “SILVER EAGLES!” at the tops of their lungs. The Silver Eagles is the name of the local high school football team. It’s also the name of a neighborhood bar, so it’s not entirely clear who they were rooting for. Regardless, they were more interested in waking up as many people as they could while they walked home than they were in promoting sports or their local bar.

Be careful what you wish for, I always say. While I laid in bed waiting for them to pass out of earshot, My Darling B surprised the hell out of me when she belted out the mostly rhetorical question, “WILL YOU DUMBSHITS SHUT THE HELL UP?” into the street from the bathroom window.

To my even greater surprise, they shut the hell up. I love My Darling B. She has awesome superpowers.

dumbshits | 8:00 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, story time
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Saturday, July 13th, 2013

We bought a sofa sleeper yesterday evening from a salesperson who wouldn’t take “yes” for an answer.

We already knew what we wanted because we’d stopped by the same store the day before, talked to a different salesperson, looked at catalogs, sat on a couple of display models, then went home and, after measuring the space where the sofa sleeper would go to make sure we weren’t buying something that was one inch too wide, narrowed our choices down to two models and drove back to the store the next day to put in an order.

Some salespersons can tell when your mind’s already made up. The smart ones will just whip out the papers, show you where to sign and let you go because they know better than to spoil an easy sale.

Then there are the salespersons who can see that your mind’s made up but feel they’re not doing their job if they don’t whip out their little song and dance routine anyway. Weirdest episode with a salesperson I’ve experienced: We were shopping for cars, decided that the Ford Escort LX station wagon was the car for us, even knew the size of the engine and the color we wanted. Went to a dealership and told the first salesman who pounced on us exactly what we were looking for. He wanted us to take a test drive. Informing him that we’d already taken several test drives and repeating exactly what we wanted, color and all, he listened with some impatience before insisting that we should take one on a test drive. In a friendly yet firm tone we said yet again that we’d already been on a test drive. We were there to buy one. Now. That’s when he turned and, saying something like, “Well, if you don’t want to take a test drive, then I don’t know why I’m even talking to you,” he walked away from us. I swear on my mother’s life I am not making that up.

Finally, there are salespeople who cannot tell that your mind is made up and plow ahead with their sales pitch no matter how bluntly you tell them to just sell us the damned thing already. That was the salesperson we got last night. When we showed her the sofa we wanted to buy, she couldn’t stop talking about some other customer who loved that sofa so much, the styles the other customer looked at before settling on one, the fabrics the other customer looked at and what she finally ordered, blah blah blah etc etc etc oh my effing god she just wouldn’t shut up about that other customer. And when she ran off once to see if the other customer’s sofa had arrived in the warehouse, I very nearly asked for the manager.

So it took a little while to drag her over to the customer service counter where we could look at fabrics. That went on for about twice as long as it should have, too, because she had to trot out a bunch of the color swatches that the other customer looked over, and the salesperson had to throw in her own suggestions to boot. My Darling B played along for a bit. I’m boring, or have no imagination at all when it comes to furniture. Sofas, to me, should be one overall color, preferably dark to hide the popcorn butter stains that we’ll inevitably leave in the middle of it. I pointed at a neutral gray swatch and stood by my choice throughout the fabric selection ordeal. Oddly, that’s what we ended up getting.

And that was it. We were done. The salesperson seemed to want to talk about it a little bit more, but we didn’t, so she got out a ticket and wrote it up, pausing occasionally to point out that we could get the feet stained a different color, for instance. Nope. The standard dark stain on the feet will do just fine, thank you. When we got to that point, we got out of there without too much more trouble, even though she tried to sell us something else on the way out. We finally escaped by gnawing our own legs off.

sleeper | 12:14 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, Our Humble O'Bode, story time
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Friday, May 3rd, 2013

I like to ride my bike to work, but I’ve always been a little skittish about it. I’m a fair-weather cyclist. I’ll ride when it’s sunny and warm out, but when the sky’s overcast, or the weatherman’s calling for more than a thirty percent chance of rain, I opt for the dry, warm safety of the O-Mobile.

The thing I’ve noticed on the days I pick the safe option is that, nine times out of ten it ended up not raining that day. I’d feel pretty good about my choice as I was driving in, but on the way home when everyone else was walking around in their shirt sleeves enjoying what turned out to be a beautifully sunny day, I’d be kicking myself. Figuratively speaking, of course. Pretty hard to kick yourself when you’re sitting in a car.

And that’s why I chucked the safest option yesterday morning and rode my bike to work, even though the forecast was calling for rain. I believed the forecast, by the way. The sky was thickly overcast with clouds the color of iron, it was cold and I had no doubt that rain would fall at some time during the day, but I was determined to believe that it would not fall during the crucial hour that I rode to work and the hour after work when I was heading home.

I made it to work just fine. Not even a sprinkle to dampen my clothes. And that’s the most critical thing, really. Could there be a a more effective way than getting soaked through with rain to make office work more miserable than it already is? Somehow, I don’t think so.

I thought I was going to be just fine on the way home, too. I had to pick up a few things, but the bakery and the grocer’s were on the way, and I was less than five minutes in each. By the time I got to Olbrich Park, though, it had started to sprinkle, and not the sprinkle of a passing cloud. More the sprinkle of a cloud that is warning you there is much, much more to come. As indeed there was.

By the time I reached Cottage Grove Road, the clouds had finished their throat-clearing and were belting out a bitchen blues tune that made me wail right along with them. The words to the song are not suitable for mixed company and I don’t remember all of them now that I’m warm and comfortable, but I remember that it was mostly just one word repeated again and again. I stuck a pronoun in occasionally just to emphasize that it was my own situation I was very unhappy with.

There was an especially heavy downpour just after I crossed the line into Monona and started down the home stretch, because when the universe flips you off, it figures Go Big Or Go Home. This was about when the river of ice water that was running down my back and damming up behind my belt finally broke through. Some say the devil rules a land of fire, some say ice. I’ve felt the icy cold hand of the devil reach down the back of my pants and grab my man-parts, so I can confirm that he’s not about fire.

I’d been pedaling so furiously through the rain and the wind that when I finally reached the shelter of Our Humble O’Bode only forty minutes had passed, and that included the two stops I made to pick up dinner. I peeled out of my wringing-wet clothes just inside the front door and left them there in a sodden heap until after I took a hot, hot shower.

Could’ve been worse, as it turned out. B said she went through hail on the way home.

great big cosmic f u | 6:23 am CDT
Category: bicycling, commuting, daily drivel, hobby, story time, work
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Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

The snow is gone, I’m happy to report. I went for a long walk yesterday on my lunch break and the only snow I saw was those big piles that get heaped up along the edges of parking lots by the guys with the snow plows on their pickup trucks, but it doesn’t even look like snow because of all the dirt and gravel and dog shit and orange cones and bicycles and et cetera that gets rolled up together with the snow. Because of that, it’s officially garbage. It doesn’t even count as snow.

The rest of the landscape was gloriously snow-free, so of course it was a mess. Meltwater was running and pooling everywhere, especially in what was once the grass but is now one vast expanse after another of mucky quicksand. If I ventured experimentally off the sidewalk in any direction my shoes sank almost immediately into it, so I stuck to the pavement where I could make good time walking up to Willy Street, over to Saint Vinnie’s, then down to the river and back to the office.

snow-free | 6:01 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, story time
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Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

I have itchy face.

I woke up with a little tic tugging at my eyebrow, rubbed it away, then got up to do the other thing I always have to do when I wake up in the middle of the night: go to the bathroom. The tic came back while I was sitting there, but in the other eyebrow this time. I was rubbing that one out as I tottered back to bed. Everything seemed to be fine as I climbed under the covers and found a comfortable position to fall back to sleep.

A slight, almost imperceptible itch teased at my left cheek. I tried to ignore it, because once you start paying attention to these things they tend to multiply, but it wouldn’t go away so finally I brushed my fingers across it a couple times. I was okay for a couple minutes until the tic came back.

It didn’t really feel like a tic this time. It felt like one of my bug antennas was doing a little hula dance. Over the years a few of the hairs in my eyebrows have mutated from my normal, short eyebrow hairs into freakishly long stalks that tend to stick out and, to make themselves even more pronounced, point slightly upward. I’ll probably end up with Andy Rooney eyebrows, but for now I just have the bug antennas. Weirdly, I seem to be the only one who can’t see them. Well, I can, but not until they look like something growing out of the head of a cockroach. My Darling B often sees them before I do, though. She lets me know when they get too funny-looking so I can get out the hedge clippers and give them a trim. If she doesn’t, and they’re not at least a foot long, then the only time I notice them is when they brush against something, or they do a little twirly-whirly. I’ve never seem them actually twirl, but it feels like that’s what they’re doing, and when they do I’ll grab them with a tweezers and yank them out by the roots because, man, does that bug the crap out of me.

I didn’t want to get out of bed to tweezer my bug hairs so I made do with giving them a good scratch with the end of my fingers, hoping that would settle them down, and for the moment it seemed to. The itch on my cheek came back, though, and after I scratched that, my forehead felt a little itchy, so I scratched that, too.

Then my eyelashes felt like they were tangled. I blinked my eyes a couple times to see if that would untangle them but they still felt tangled. I know they weren’t. I know they only felt tangled and the only real tangling going on was in my head, just like my bug antenna eyebrows weren’t really twirling, but the only thing I could do to make them feel like they were untangled was to rub them with my fingers.

Okay, deep breath. Relax. Back to sleep.

Nope. Felt like there were bugs in my hair. Don’t know here that idea came from. Maybe the “bug” from bug antenna eyebrows. Whatever. I had to scratch that. Can’t ignore bugs in the hair. Can’t make them go away by scratching, either. Scratching only makes it worse. Only napalm gets rid of bugs in the hair, or getting B to shoot me in the face, which she probably wanted to do by that time to stop me from fidgeting. Well, I knew by then I wasn’t going to simply fall back asleep any time soon, so I rolled out of bed and got comfortable on the sofa where I could scratch my head for as long as it took to make all the little tics and itches go away. And drivel. Got to drivel it, or it didn’t happen.

itchy & scratchy | 2:36 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, story time
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